Improving brain power can mean a lot of different things.
However, given what we are uncovering about the capacities of the human brain, it is very possible to engage in activities that enhance two recently discovered capacities of the human brain, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
When we enhance those two things, the number of neurons available to help me solve daily personal and professional problems increases, and that can mean novel solutions which seem to flow more effortlessly.
To me, that would represent an increase in brain power.
Improving brain power through enhanced neurogenesis and neuroplasticity means life style changes, attending to physical exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and novel learning challenges, which might include the use of computerized brain fitness programs.
Recent research on the dual n back task has shown that using one tool, Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, increases IQ, with no apparent limit to the possible gain if you continue to practice.
If what you are after in terms of improving brain power means increased IQ, then start with Mind Sparke.
The research was published in 2008, and is not yet a year old.
Our world and our knowledge about it is changing fast isn't it?
Mind Sparke requires about 1/2 hour per day practice for 19 days for the initial gains, then maintenance practice continues the gains.
If what you are searching for is increased IQ, then here is the place to get it.
Over and over, the research is showing that the most important decision we can make to enhance neurogenesis, your brain's capacity to grow new neurons daily, and its neuroplasticity, or its ability to rewire itself based on what you are paying attention to, is physical exercise, or more physical activity.
According to Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., co-authors of Brainfit for Life we can increase neurogenesis and neuroplasticity by increasing the physical activity we already do.
In other words, if your daily activity includes a stroll around the block, then take two strolls, or park further from the front door of the grocery store, and walk.
You do not have to buy a membership to a gym, or hire a personal trainer to improve brain power.
In fact, you might want to take a look at the home grown workouts that Angie and Scott Tousignant have put together for couples to do. Their workout involves regular HIIT or high intensity interval training which you do at your level at your home with tools no more complicated than an exercise ball or dumbells. And you will work up a sweat that impacts your brain very positively.
At least I do. Who knew jumping jacks were so important?
No way around it folks, improving brain power means putting an end to processed foods and all the appetite stimulants which are in them, along with the high fructose corn syrup.
Your brain, while it is only 2% of your weight, uses 20% of the fuel your body burns, and it cannot store any fuel, so it needs a constant stream of high quality fuel, which includes all the necessary antioxidants to sop up the occasional free radical which hurries up the aging process. (You like blueberries?)
Home grown, vine ripened fruits and vegetables are the tools your brain needs pretty much constantly to function at its best.
Those foods supply the antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins, glyconutrients, and fiber, among other things, that we need for improving brain power.
Some of the nutrients our brains need are essential, which means that the brain must get them from the diet as the body cannot manufacture them.
One such nutrient is omega 3 fatty acid, which must be kept in balance with the omega 6 fatty acids.
Neurons are composed of about 60% omega 3 fatty acid, and if there is not a steady stream of it, neurons get stiff and brittle and do not receive or send messages as well, resulting in garbled communications and poor life style choices.
The best source of omega 3 is ocean going fish which presents us with the issue of mercury poisoning.
If supplementation is how you choose to get your brain its ration of omega 3, then make sure the supplement says it has been processed so that the mercury is also processed out of the supplement. Here is a link to a supplement which has taken that precaution, xTend Life. xTend Life.
You knew there had to be one easy change in this improving brain power lifestyle, right?
According to Evans and Burghardt, the brain needs to complete some important hormonal and review tasks during sleep, and if we do not get enough sleep, those events are not done efficiently, impacting neurogenesis and neuroplasticity negatively.
So make your sleep long enough so that it can be deep enough for rest and rejuvenation.
Some students of the brain fitness process say that stress management is an important factor for our brain functioning, because stress hormones stop neurogenesis.
Stress hormones are appropriate for a situation where we are under attack and need to respond with fight or flight, however, in our culture, we have made a habit of keeping our body filled with stress hormones as a way of increasing production and income, which is a very short sighted strategy which damages our health and actually depletes our brain power.
So I need to learn some stress reduction tools for constant use. The best is deep breathing, belly breathing, like your baby does when it lays on its back. Children do this effortlessly until we train them out of it. If I can remember to breathe deeply, I will have an internal chemistry very helpful to brain fitness.
Ever heard of the HeartMath tool? It is used to train the brain in the Heart, which is sophisticated enough to learn and make decisions independently of any other brains we have.
This tool has grown out of the development of another new science, neurocardiology, which is about 10-15 years old.
I can learn the HeartMath process using a program on my computer, and in about five to ten practices, I can do the Freeze Frame process without the computer, which gives me the ability to change my stress level heart beat by heart beat.
Check it out.
I am sure that when you saw the "novel learning" phrase above, an alarm went off, and you remembered your third grade teacher, who taught to the tune of a hickory stick, well that is if you are my age anyway, and at my age you really appreciate Norman Rockwell paintings.
Well, improving brain power novel learning will not be quite like the learning in that class.
This novel learning experience involves computerized brain fitness programs which are actually quite fun to do, and the Mind Sparke mentioned above is one of those tools.
Another is the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program which has just recently, in April of 2009, had research done on its effectiveness as a brain fitness tool.
The Posit Science tool has been created for Senior Citizens and has some excellent impact. The nice thing, once I complete the initial regimen, I can practice whenever I want to, and if you have children like I do, and need to be Dad, then you have the brain power to do that.
Michael Merzinich,Ph.D., the leader in the neuroplasticity field, says that the feedback we need to have in our learning must increase to match our new level of skills.
Therefore, increasing challenge is built into the Posit Science Brain Fitness Tool, and that is an important part of both the Mind Sparke and the Lumosity Program too.
All of these tools allow you to track your progress, and I am usually amazed at what I discover about my attention to the task at hand.
I am too easily distracted even in the short amount of time between the computerized trials.
Better learn about it there than in a situation where my children could be harmed.